Flores is much more expensive, and the quality of traveling is less enjoyable than that in Bali. It’s a fact. The money you paid in Bali for a nice, ambient hotel with AC and a swimming pool, in Flores will get you a simple room with no amenities. There are decent (or even more than decent) hotels in Flores, but they will cost you two-three times more than a similar place in Bali.
Once we straightened these things up, forget about Bali. Stop comparing these two islands and start enjoying your time in Flores.
You’ll find a better deal when in Flores. We sent some e-mail price inquiries to about a dozen of the transport/travel companies. The offers we got were at least twice as high as what we finally paid.
BUT. The offers mentioned above included a full journey from Ende to Labuan Bajo with the same car and a driver. Which means the passengers pay for the driver’s food and accommodation. What we did was to divide our trip and find a new way of transportation for each part.
There are several ways of doing so.
The cheapest option is to travel by bus that operates between the main towns. They have more or less fixed timetables and cost very little. The problem is, they frequently stop on the way, so the whole trip takes forever.
The better option is to find a seat in a passenger car. The drivers running errands away from home (including those who drive the travelers) always try to find paying passengers for the whole journey. They find them in specific places in towns (a market, a crossroads, etc. Ask a local, they will point you to the right spot), or they pick up the hitchhikers. The ride should be smooth and fast. The downside is, you won’t get to stop on the way at the viewpoints (and there are many of them in Flores).
So the best option is to find travel companions (e.g., in a hotel you stay) to share the costs of the journey. There won’t be other passengers who could object stopping at the viewpoints, and the drivers usually don’t mind it either (just clear this out before the trip). How can you find a car? Just ask at your hotel, the receptionist (or the owner) will surely know somebody, who knows somebody who goes to your destination the day you need.
Besides sending the price requests to the transport companies, we also tried to find a place on a boat to Komodo National Park via the internet. With the same result – the offers we were receiving were horribly overpriced. We decided to find a boat in person, when in Labuan Bajo.
There are many tourist agencies operating in Labuan Bajo, and from what we saw – there are more boats than passengers. True, we traveled in September, offseason, but still, it looked like the boat business abounded in the vessels). You’ll always find a cruise you want for half the price they offer online. Plus, you’ll get the opportunity to ask other travelers (e.g., from your hotel) about their experience with the agencies.
We tried to find a one-day cruise to both islands, Rinca and Komodo. Unfortunately, we didn’t succeed. Albeit, there were many one-day cruises to Rinca Island and two/three-day cruises to Rinca and Komodo to choose from. As we couldn’t find a cruise, we had to rent a whole boat. Still, we paid much less than we were offered online.
One of our readers asked us if it’s better to start a trip in Ende or in Labuan Bajo.
Well, from what we saw, it doesn’t matter. Even if there is a disproportion of travelers starting in Labuan Bajo or Ende (or Maumere, for this matter), the drivers always find passengers on their way back (see: tip number 2).
In our opinion, the key factor when planning a trip to Flores should be the price of the flight tickets. Depending on your starting point (most likely Denpasar, Bali), check the total cost for both options (east-west vs. west-east) and take the cheaper one.
No matter how much you expect from Flores, you’ll always be positively surprised. What you’ll read in your travel guide is only a scratch on a surface of the wonders you’ll encounter here. Flores has much more to offer, so make sure you have enough time to accept it.
To see what else you can do in Flores, go to our article What to see and do in Flores, Indonesia.
And if you need help with planning your trip, see our itinerary on How to plan a trip to Flores, Indonesia.
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